A pleasant young couple settles into a new house, only to discover that each passing night brings new bumps, creaks, and eerie visions, and then... Hey, wake up!
Suffice to say that Todd Lincoln’s anemic new thriller, The Apparition, is every synonym for “unoriginal” that you can possibly imagine. Not only is it entirely beholden to earlier and considerably better haunted house flicks -- which could easily be forgiven if there was something new or slightly novel included -- but it also arrives in theaters in a rather amateurish package. Clocking in at a lean 77 minutes without the end credits, and packing more plot holes than a flick three times that size, The Apparition feels like it was long, dull, and flat at one point, but got a lot of random junk cut out during the post-production process. So now it’s just an 80-minute movie that feels like a three-hour battle between you and your yawn reflex.
After three Paranormal Activity movies and hundreds of other good, bad, or amazing haunted house movies, there’s simply no reason for The Apparition to exist. The spectral threats appear most frequently as giant mold spores (yes, really), the backstory (and that’s me being kind) adds nothing to the central plot, and worst of all: for a flick with virtually no plot, it sure does spend a lot of time explaining (and then re-explaining via flashback and silly ADR) its elaborate machinations of pointlessness. It feels like something slightly interesting once existed in The Apparition, but it’s difficult to see any logical reason behind the expense and effort of the final product.
The impossibly pretty Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan play a pair of young lovers who live in a great house and have seemingly endless money to spend (even though she’s a vet assistant and he’s a tech support nerd), but just when this Old Navy ad starts to get funny, up pops a listless and perpetually silly ghost story. The Apparition is not only an old joke re-told for the 400th time, but here it’s being told by some truly sloppy comedians. The movie fails at basic character development and plot exposition (we open with no less than two seances that add virtually nothing to the movie), and while Ms. Greene and Mr. Stan are certainly nice to look at, they don’t deliver much in the department of reality. She starts out bubbly and quickly turns dour; he furrows his brow a lot and occasionally raises his voice. Also Tom Felton shows up in a role and performance so old-school horror-flick overbaked, it seems like he’s auditioning for the job of Malcolm MacDowell’s B-movie understudy. (Or perhaps David Warner’s.)
Relative assets include a cool but ill-fitting Tomandandy score and some slick but overlit Daniel Pearl cinematography, but at this point I’m just digging for a few things to be nice about. In its present form, The Apparition is just about the most basic and generic haunted house retread in several years, but beyond that it’s just a very dull and uninteresting piece of work. The DVD will undoubtedly arrive with 15 more minutes of footage that may smooth out some of the plot wrinkles, but I won’t be among those who rent it to find out.